The Flex 3S and the DreamWave are both popular massage chair models from the well-known brand, Inada. But what’s the difference between them and is one better than the other?
Inada Sogno DreamWave
Inada Sogno DreamWave
Inada Flex 3S
3D Massage Roller
Air Massage Intensity Adjustment
Arm Air Massage
Auto Leg Extension
Auto Massage Programs
Body Scan Technology
Calf and Foot Massage
Foot Acupressure Nodes
Lower Back & Seat
Hands & Feet
Hip Air Massage
Lower Back Air Massage
Multi-level Strength Adjustment
Music System with Speakers
Neck Traction Device
Number of Airbags
Removable Back Pad and Pillow
Roller Track Length
Roller Speed Adjustment
Roller Width Adjustment
Shoulder Air Massage
✓ (Shoulder stabilization)
Made in Japan
Inada Sogno DreamWave
Inada Flex 3S
To start our review, we’re giving you some background information on the Inada brand. Then, we’ll explain all of the features on the Inada Flex 3S and the DreamWave. Finally, we’ll compare the two side-by-side to see which is better… Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave. Let’s get started!
Who is Inada?
Inada is one of the oldest, most revered massage chair companies. It was founded in Japan in 1962 by Nichimu Inada, who remains the company’s president to this day.
Today, Inada is still headquartered in Japan — the most competitive massage chair market in the world — where all their chairs are designed, engineered, and perhaps most importantly, manufactured. An estimated “15% of Japanese households own a massage chair,” says Inada. And thanks to over 50 years of competition, they’ve had to continuously innovate, resulting in technology and quality few other markets can produce.
As one of the first and most innovative massage chair companies, Inada is credited with the introduction of many industry-changing contributions such as spinal rollers, acupressure-focused massage, infrared body scan, and the first full-body comprehensive massage chair (the Sogno DreamWave) among others.
Inada has a second headquarters located in Boulder, Colorado, which is the exclusive distributor of Inada brand massage chairs in the U.S. All of their massage chairs come with a 3-year limited in-home repair or replace warranty that covers all parts and labor in the event of a defect. Best of all: Their in-home support team will travel to you — anywhere you live.
Now that we’ve covered the Inada company, let’s get into our review of the Inada DreamWave vs Flex 3S...
Common Features on the Inada DreamWave vs Flex 3S
Table of Contents
- 1 Who is Inada?
- 2 Common Features on the Inada DreamWave vs Flex 3S
- 3 Unique Features on the Inada DreamWave Massage Chair
- 4 Massage Techniques & Auto Programs on the Inada DreamWave Massage Chair
- 5 Manual Mode and Customization Options on the Inada DreamWave Chair
- 6 Unique Features on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
- 7 Massage Techniques and Auto Programs on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
- 8 Manual Mode & Customization Options on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
- 9 Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave? Which is the Best?
- 10 Specifications & Dimensions
- 11 Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave Review Final Thoughts
Body Scan Technology
Body scan technology is an important aspect of any high-quality massage. Without it, the massage rollers’ range is either based on a standard height or must be manually adjusted via the remote. With body scan technology, a massage chair is able to detect, at the very minimum, the position of your shoulders, though high-end chairs will have more comprehensive scans that also detect your shape and shiatsu points.
The Inada DreamWave uses a body scan technology called “Optical Point Sensor.” The scan detects your height, shape and shiatsu points before any massage initiates to deliver a custom-fit treatment. During the scan, the massage rollers lightly tap around your shoulders to detect their position. At the same time, infrared lights in the backrest of the chair detect the shape of your spine and body. The chair then compares the scan information with over a hundred “profiles” programmed into the chair. The closest profile is selected and your massage begins.
On the Flex 3S, the body scan technology is similar, but is called “Shiatsu Point Locator.” Using the same infrared technology, the Flex 3S detects the shape of your spine and back before comparing your profile to the other stored profiles. Once a match is found, your custom shiatsu massage on the Flex 3S begins.
If the body scan doesn’t quite locate your shoulder position, you can manually adjust the position at any time using a set of arrows on the remote.
So you may be wondering… what are shiatsu points and why are they detected?
In Japanese, "Shiatsu" means “finger pressure” and characterizes a type of massage therapy that’s been used for centuries to restore balance and well-being to the body.
Shiatsu-style massage focuses on treating shiatsu points also known as acupressure points. According to traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine, shiatsu points are the points on the body through which life force (“Chi” or “Qi” in China and “Ki” in Japan) flows. Together, these individual points form meridians, which are a network of shiatsu points that correspond to specific organ systems.
It’s believed that when a meridian is blocked an imbalance in the body’s energy system occurs which results in physical illness or imbalance. Traditional therapies like shiatsu massage and acupressure work to clear these blocks and bring alignment back to the body’s energy system.
3D Roller Massage Technology
To perform shiatsu-style massage, both the Inada DreamWave and the Flex 3S use 3D roller technology.
With 3D massage, the rollers move in three ways: vertically (up and down), horizontally (side to side), and outward (protruding into the muscles). The third movement, outward, is the equivalent of massage intensity and determines the strength and depth of your massage.
On the Inada DreamWave, the 3D rollers move in a figure eight pattern as they massage the back. This movement mimics the techniques a massage therapist uses during shiatsu massage and allows the rollers to reach more areas. In fact, together with the air massage, the coverage on the DreamWave is over 1200 square inches — the most comprehensive body coverage of any massage chair.
Although both massage chairs — Flex 3S and DreamWave — have 3D rollers, the massage feels very different.
In general, the default roller massage on the Inada DreamWave is quite gentle. This is because the DreamWave has wider rubber rollers. On the Inada Flex 3S, however, the massage feels more vigorous and powerful, though it’s not overwhelming by any means.
The rollers on the Inada DreamWave move along a 28-inch massage track that extends from the neck to the sacrum in the lower back reaching the tops of the glutes. The roller track on the Flex 3S is slightly shorter at 27 inches. Although it doesn’t reach as far down as the DreamWave track, the rollers on the Flex 3S tend to spend more time in the sacrum region.
In addition to roller massage, both the DreamWave and the Flex 3S feature air massage.
Air massage uses airbags (or air cells as Inada calls them) to treat areas rollers can’t reach like the sides of the shoulders and sides of the hips. Typically, air cells have two movements: inflate and deflate. But thanks to Inada’s advanced air system, the air cells are programmed to do much more, for example, perform massage techniques like rotations and twists.
Inside the Inada DreamWave are 100 air cells — one of the most robust air massage systems. But don’t worry, it isn’t as noisy as you might expect with such a large number of airbags thanks to the insulation.
The Flex 3S has half the amount of air cells as the DreamWave — 50 total. But it’s how the Flex 3S uses its air cells that sets it apart from the DreamWave. The Inada Flex 3S offers perhaps some of the most advanced and effective stretch programs available, in which air cells are a key component.
On both chairs, the air cells are strategically placed for maximum coverage and treat the shoulders, arms, hands, hips, thighs, buttock, calves, and feet. We’ll dig deeper into how each of the chairs use air massage later in the article.
Calf and Foot Massage
Both the Flex 3S and the DreamWave feature calf and foot massage ottomans. In the foot portion of each ottoman are removable rubber acupressure nodes that press into the bottoms of the feet. There are no mechanical foot rollers on either of the massage chairs, so the acupressure plates are as comprehensive of a foot massage as you’ll get. However, both chairs have air cells that line the ottomans that inflate to push the feet onto the nodes for a powerful shiatsu-style massage. The air cells provide compression massage to the calves and play a key role in the stretch programs by holding the legs in place.
The Flex 3S and the DreamWave both feature heat therapy. With heat, blood vessels dilate which increases circulation and the flow of nutrients and oxygen. As new oxygen and nutrients reach an area, it repairs damaged tissues — an excellent feature for sore muscles. Heat also has a distinctly massage-friendly benefit: it relaxes the muscles, allowing the rollers to penetrate deeper for a more effective massage.
The Flex 3S has heat in the hands and feet that replicate the feeling of a hot stone massage. The Inada DreamWave has heat in the lower back and seat. On both chairs, the heat can be turned off or added to any auto or manual massage.
Now that we’ve covered the common features, it’s time to look at the unique features on the Inada DreamWave vs Flex 3S...
Unique Features on the Inada DreamWave Massage Chair
The Inada DreamWave (formerly Sogno DreamWave) changed the industry when it was introduced in 2008 as the first ever fully-encompassing massage chair. And though it’s been almost 10 years since its introduction, the DreamWave has remained one of the leading high-end massage chairs on the market. Let’s take a closer look at the unique features of the Inada DreamWave...
Neck Traction Device
At the top of the backrest on the Inada DreamWave is a patented neck traction device. It sits on top almost like a pillow. When reclined in the chair, the traction device cradles your head and presses on top of your shoulders.
Inside the device are airbags that inflate to press your shoulders away from your neck for gentle traction that creates space between the vertebrae to relieve pinched nerves and pain. On the surface of the airbags are removable acupressure nodes that add an extra dimension of massage. As the airbags inflate, the nodes press into your shoulders performing a trigger point massage.
The device provides great coverage for the often neglected and hard-to-reach areas of the trapezius muscles like the sides of the neck and tops of the shoulders. But if you want to skip the device altogether, you can remove it and enjoy roller massage directly on your neck and shoulders.
Back and Seat Vibration Massage
Inside the lower back and seat of the Inada DreamWave are high-frequency vibration plates. These plates vibrate to stimulate the microcirculation to help remove stagnant fluids from the muscles. Vibration also has a soothing effect, helping the muscles to relax and release tension.
Vibration massage can be turn off or added to any auto or manual massage program.
When the Inada DreamWave was first introduced, its design had never before been seen. Now, it’s perhaps one of the most copied massage chair designs ever.
The Inada DreamWave was designed by renowned product designer, Toshiyuki Kita, whose most notable works have earned him permanent places in the New York City Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe in Germany among other prominent institutions.
Leather-Like or Genuine Leather Upholstery
The leather-like upholstery on the Inada DreamWave is made from a polyurethane. The material is antibacterial, stain and soil resistant. Like leather, it’s soft and flexible enough for the rollers to freely move across the backrest without losing pressure or contact. Unlike leather, it’s highly abrasion resistant. The leather-like material is also easy to keep clean — a wipe with water-based cleaner or light vacuuming is all you need.
But if you prefer the real thing, Inada offers the DreamWave in genuine leather called TruBlack. The DreamWave also comes in four non-leather colors: black, dark brown, cream, and red.
Massage Techniques & Auto Programs on the Inada DreamWave Massage Chair
Now that we’ve looked at all of the massage components, let’s see how the DreamWave brings them together in their auto programs and techniques…
There are seven massage techniques available on the DreamWave. This may seem like a small number compared to other high-end massage chairs like the Osaki Japan Premium 4S or Human Touch Navitas Sleep Chair, but the techniques cover all of the fundamental shiatsu-style massage movements, including:
- Kneading - Circular motions that pull and stretch the muscles. The direction can be adjusted (clockwise or counterclockwise) and there are three levels of speed.
- Double Kneading - Circular motions at varying speeds and directions.
- Kneading and Tapping - A combination of circular motions and rapid tapping strokes. The direction can be adjusted and there are three levels of speed.
- Tapping - Rapid tapping strokes with two types: Tapping 1 and Tapping 2. There are three levels of speed for Tapping 1.
- Human Hands - A complex set of movements that mimic the feeling of human hands. The direction can be adjusted.
- Shiatsu - Rhythmic “finger pressure” with two types: Shiatsu 1 and Shiatsu 2.
- Rolling - Up and down movements to stretch the muscles along the spine.
There are 16 auto programs on the Inada DreamWave. These programs are the fully-automated massages that come standard on the chair. Each auto massage has a theme or benefit, for example, “Morning.” These are the easiest massages to enjoy simply because they only require the push of a button to begin.
The massage programs are divided into two categories: Healthcare and Wellbeing. And each program has two versions: a normal version and a deep relaxation version. So technically there are only eight auto programs, but because there are two versions of each the total comes to 16. The programs are:
Healthcare Auto Programs
- Full Body - Full-body roller and air massage.
- Full Body Air - Full-body air massage.
- Youth - Gentle full-body massage for users 14 years and up. During Youth, the massage range is shortened to match the height of the user.
- Quick - A demo program that samples each massage.
Wellbeing Auto Programs
- Morning - Full-body massage to energize the body after sleep.
- Night - Full-body massage to relax the body for before bed.
- Stretch - Full-body massage that stretches the body. During the program, the legs are held by the air cells in the ottoman while the chair reclines to stretch the body. Then, air cells in the seat and next to the hips inflate to rotate the body.
- DreamWave - Full-body massage to relax the muscles and joints.
Manual Mode and Customization Options on the Inada DreamWave Chair
If you’d rather dial-in your own massage or want to customize your treatment, the manual mode options on the Inada DreamWave let you adjust settings like massage direction, speed, and intensity among others. Let’s take a look at the manual mode options available...
- Massage Direction - Adjust the direction of massage to clockwise or counterclockwise.
- Massage Speed - Adjust the speed of the rollers by three levels.
- 3D Roller Intensity - Adjust the level of protrusion (intensity) of the rollers from the track.
- Air Massage Location - Select from four air massage locations or combine them: arm, shoulder, seat, or foot.
- Massage Techniques - Select one of the seven techniques.
- Massage Width - Adjust how narrow the rollers fit your spine by three levels.
- Roller Position - Adjust the position of the rollers.
- Mute Button - Mute the sound of the remote.
Unique Features on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
Perhaps the greatest difference between the Inada DreamWave vs Flex 3S is that the Flex 3S offers a set of comprehensive stretch programs. The Flex 3S perfectly combines therapeutic stretching with shiatsu-style massage. In fact, the Flex 3S gets its name from its mobility and posture-correcting abilities.
Let’s take a closer look at the unique features on the Inada Flex 3S…
When looking at the Inada DreamWave and the Flex 3S side by side you’ll immediately notice the Flex 3S has shoulder airbags that extend out much farther. That’s because these shoulder airbags are not only used for compression air massage but are actually shoulder stabilization devices.
If you struggle with proper posture or spend a lot of time at a desk, you may catch yourself slouching or hunching over. The Flex 3S remedies this problem with shoulder stabilization airbags that inflate to move your shoulders back and pin them to the backrest to help restore proper posture and body alignment.
Sports Stretching Expert-Designed Programs
All of the stretch programs on the Inada Flex 3S are designed by sports stretching expert Tadashi Kaneko. Utilizing the power of sports medicine and shiatsu-style massage, the Flex 3S delivers a combination few, if any, other massage chairs can match.
Massage Techniques and Auto Programs on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
The Inada Flex 3S has six massage techniques. The technique the Flex 3S doesn’t have that the DreamWave does is Double Kneading. However, the remaining six are exactly the same and include: Kneading, Kneading and Tapping, Tapping, Human Hands, Shiatsu, and Rolling.
There are 11 auto programs on the Inada Flex 3S — five less than the DreamWave. The auto programs are divided into two categories: Healthcare and Conditioning. Additionally, the Flex 3S has “Focused Sessions” that straddle the line between automatic and manual. With the Focused Sessions, you can select specific body areas you want your massage to focus as well as adjust settings like speed, intensity and roller position.
Let’s take a closer look at the massage programs…
Healthcare Auto Programs
Healthcare programs are intended to helps the muscles recover from fatigue, they are:
- Massage and Stretch - A full-body massage that combines light stretching and roller massage.
- Full Body Stretch - A stretch program that treats the whole body.
- Full Body Massage - Stretch and roller massage for the whole body.
- Low Body Focus - Stretch and roller massage focused on the lower body.
Conditioning Auto Programs
Conditioning programs are intended to help the body before and after workouts, strenuous activities or sleep. They are:
- Warm Up - A massage that gently stretches your muscles before exercise as well as wakes the body up after sleep.
- Cool Down - A massage that performs balanced stretching of your muscles after exercise and helps to prevent next-day soreness.
Focused sessions give you more control over the body areas being treated. They are:
- Shoulder - Choose from two areas: Neck/Shoulders or Shoulders. Neck/Shoulders provides a stretch from the neck to the tops of the shoulders. Shoulders provides a stretch focused on the shoulders.
- Low Body - Stretches the lower back and pelvic area.
- Stretch - Choose from two focused stretches: Full-Body Bending or Posture Straightening. Full-Body Bending uses the airbags to bend the entire body. Posture Straightening uses the shoulder stabilization feature to improve posture.
Manual Mode & Customization Options on the Inada Flex 3S Massage Chair
If you want even more control over your massage, the manual mode options on the Inada Flex 3S let dial-in quite a few settings, including:
- Air Massage Intensity - You can adjust the air intensity up to three levels.
- Roller Massage Intensity - You can adjust the roller intensity up to three levels.
- Max Intensity - A “Max Intensity” button lets you simultaneously adjust the intensity for the air and roller massages to the highest setting.
- Roller Width - Adjust the width of the rollers by three levels.
- Roller Speed - Adjust the speed of the rollers by three levels.
- Air Massage Location - Choose from three air massage locations or combine them. The locations are: arm, seat, or foot.
- Massage Technique - Choose from one of six massage techniques.
- Auto Upright - A unique feature, an “Auto Upright” button lets you choose if you want the massage chair to stay reclined after a massage program ends or automatically return to the upright position.
Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave? Which is the Best?
Although the Flex 3S and the DreamWave are from the same brand, they’re quite different. For example, the Inada Flex 3S offers shoulder stabilization for posture correction — an excellent feature if you spend a lot of time hunched over (like at a desk or computer keyboard). The Inada DreamWave, on the other hand, features a neck tractioning device that pushes the shoulders downward, elongating the neck to provide gentle traction that can help relieve pinched nerves and tension.
Neither feature is better than the other, however, each feature will suit someone’s needs better than the other. So if you find yourself struggling with posture, the Flex 3S is a great option for flexibility and mobility. And if you find yourself struggling with neck tension and nerve pain, the Inada DreamWave, is a great option for traction and trigger point massage.
The same reasoning is applied to the chairs in general… there is no end-all and be-all best massage chair. However, one of these massage chairs will provide you with the combination of features you need for your unique treatment. And regardless of which one suits you better, both are backed by a great warranty, are from a trusted brand and should last for many years to come. In fact, Inada claims if “used once a day, the expected usable life is more than 24 years.”
Specifications & Dimensions
Inada Flex 3s
Chair dimensions (upright)
42"L X 33"W X 50"H
55"L X 37"W X 48"H
Chair dimensions (reclined)
29"L X 33"W X 73"H
83"L X 38"W X 30"H
Recommended maximum user weight
Recommended user height
5'0" to 6'2"
5'0" to 6'5"
Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave Review Final Thoughts
The Inada DreamWave and the Flex 3S are both exceptional massage chairs and each has its own benefits.
The Inada DreamWave is a fully-encompassing shiatsu-style massage chair with the most coverage of any chair in the world. It’s designed to treat every part of your body and offers advanced techniques like lower back mobilization and neck tractioning.
The Flex 3S, on the other hand, masterfully combines shiatsu massage and sports stretching. It’s designed to treat poor posture, mobility, and flexibility issues.
So, when deciding between the Inada Flex 3S or DreamWave, the question is… which better treats your unique needs? We hope our review helped make your decision process a little easier.
Sources and Official Brand Websites
- Inada Massage Chair, Official Brand Website.
- Stretching 101: Benefits and Proper Techniques, Very Well.
- Neck Pain Massage, Massage Envy
- The Benefits of Shiatsu Massage Therapy: Chronic Pain, Acupuncture Massage College.
- Benefits of Massage For Athletes, Health & Fitness Magazine.